KSTP Story Perpetuates Racial Prejudices

I have my own inaccurate prejudices. KSTP story alleging gang affiliation by Mayor Hodges seems to be making the same mistake.

By Carl Nelson

Last night, KSTP 5 Eyewitness News ran a story alleging gang affiliation by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. The story included a candid photo of the mayor with a young African American man—taken in the last few days while they were both canvassing the city to get out the vote—and they were pointing toward each other with what some believe to be gang signs.

(Courtesy: KSTP) Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.
(Courtesy: KSTP) Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.

The TV story alleged that Mayor Hodges was flashing a gang sign and encouraging gang activity by her actions captured in this photo. A retired Minneapolis police officer was quoted saying that the mayor’s action put police officers’ lives at risk.

At Transform Minnesota, we recognize that there are deep and painful racial divisions within our community. As the state’s leading evangelical network, we are committed to leading our network of churches toward a future of ethnic and cultural harmony. This requires hard, soul-searching work by all of us to understand our own biases, to remember the history that has shaped our present realities, and most importantly, to learn how we perceive reality.

I have my own inaccurate prejudices about what is and is not a gang symbol or identity. My prejudices are a product of my middle-class upbringing and generational identity. I know many people—both white and black and of different classes—who think that wearing low-hanging pants is both immodest and that the wearer is somehow celebrating a gangster culture. I, too, used to falsely believe that low-hanging pants were somehow related to gang activity until some friends pointed out my bias and helped teach me to think differently.

The KSTP news story seems to be making the same mistake of jumping to negative conclusions about a certain action or behavior—in this case, linking the mayor to gang activity simply because she is pictured with a young African American man and suggesting to the viewer that their hand gestures are gang signs.

Not Endorsing Gang Activity

To be clear, we want to disavow any encouragement of gang culture and activities. Gangs in Minneapolis and St. Paul ensnare too many young men leading them down a path of destruction.

There are many African American community leaders working hard to separate youth from the symbols and cultural appeal of gang activity. While they would not want to celebrate gang identities, it is irresponsible of KSTP to broadcast a news story that jumps to the conclusion that the mayor is cavorting with gangs simply because she is pictured with a young African American man gesturing with their hands what some people assume to be gang signs.

We all need to do more to check our prejudiced emotions, and then be careful not to perpetuate unhelpful or inaccurate narratives that are so often shaped by our racial or class biases.

Leading the Church Towards a Multiethnic Future

Our work to address this issue at Transform Minnesota has included conferences and leadership networks like Coming Together and the Multicultural Leadership Cohort, published pieces by local leaders addressing White Evangelicals and Race in America as well as the important work of relationship building between individual Christians from different cultural and racial backgrounds.


[message type=”custom” width=”100%” align=”left” start_color=”#dadbdc” end_color=”#ffffff” border=”#9ead39″ color=”#9c1b33″]Related Articles: White Evangelicals & Race in America

Silence Says Something: Let us refuse to be silenced by fear, ability, distance or guilt. Rev. Edrin Williams

Time for the Church to Talk Candidly About Race: In the law we learn that silence is acquiescence. Law professor Nekima Levy-Pounds

Church, Let’s Just Stop this Madness: Let’s give Jesus a chance to fix this. Rev. Richard Coleman.

Our Responsibility to the Ministry of Reconciliation: We must allow our citizenship as brothers and sisters in Christ to rise to the top. Rev. Terrance Rollerson.

White Evangelicals and Race in America: Different life experiences lead to silence, feelings of abandonment. Carl Nelson




November 7, 2014